WSU News

Study finds frequent newspaper readers are more trusting

PULLMAN, Wash. – A study out of Washington State University shows that people who are frequent readers of a daily newspaper tend to be more trusting of others than those who read newspapers less frequently. The effect holds for both residents of small towns and big cities, even though researchers found small town residents are more trusting in general than city dwellers.
 
Featured in the latest issue of Mass Communication and Society, the study was conducted by Douglas Hindman, associate professor of communication, and Masahiro Yamamoto, WSU graduate student and assistant professor of humanities at Colby-Sawyer College in New Hampshire.
 
It underscores the importance of newspapers in their communities. By reinforcing feelings of trust, the researchers said, newspapers can help make communities better places to live. When people trust each other, they are more likely to work together to improve their communities.
 
The research also shows that not all forms of community participation are equal in terms of fostering social trust. As might be expected, social trust is associated with participation in youth-related activities such as parent-teacher groups or youth organizations. Conversely, participation in activities such as political groups, protests or boycotts is associated with lower levels of social trust. 
 
“When political participation includes conflict, as is often the case given the partisan nature of the U.S. political system, the result is sharpened debates, mobilized supporters, challenged inequities and social involvement considered crucial to democratic functioning,” Hindman and Yamamoto write in the article. “It does not, however, appear to enhance social trust.
 
“Perhaps social trust is not the ultimate measure of the value of all forms of social participation,” they write. 
 
The journal issue contains several articles focusing on a wide range of topics relating to the effects of societal or community characteristics on media rather than the impact of media on society or individuals.
One study, coming out of the University of Texas-Austin, discovered that local newspapers are not only influenced by the national media agenda but by the paper’s surrounding community on issues such as gay marriage, abortion and obesity.
 
Another study from WSU’s Yamamoto discovered that local media can act as an agent of social change in helping communities tackle issues such as public safety, education and a clean environment.
 
Mass Communication and Society is a scholarly journal focused on publishing articles from a wide variety of perspectives and approaches that advance mass communication theory, especially at the societal or macrosocial level. It draws heavily from many other disciplines, including sociology, psychology, anthropology, philosophy, law and history.